Have your friends and family become concerned about your relationship? Do you feel that you constantly have to vie for your partner’s affection and worry about whether you will be verbally or physically abused if you do not please them? Do you defend them nonetheless? You could be part of a trauma bond, where trauma is the primary thing that is holding you together and keeping you feeling connected to another person. So, what exactly are trauma bonds?

What Is a Trauma Bond?

Trauma is an emotional response to a highly stressful experience, such as an accident or an assault. Trauma may be a result of physical abuse, sexual abuse, bullying, domestic violence, grief, and many other causes.

When someone is suffering from trauma, they may become depressed, anxious, or suffer from PTSD and substance abuse in order to cope. They are in a very vulnerable state.
Trauma bonding is when someone forms an attachment to their abuser due to a pattern of abuse that capitalizes on vulnerability. The abuser will follow toxic behavior with positive reinforcement, which can make the abused person feel more bonded to the abuser and strive to please them. It takes advantage of the abused person’s vulnerable state, usually by continuing to falsely promise that things will get better.

In these cases, the abused person often is gaslit into believing they deserve the abuse for some reason. Over time, this decreases self-esteem and self-worth. They may shy away or get angry with those who try to tell them to get help, and may feel stuck in a cycle of abuse, followed by good times. It fuels a need for validation from the person abusing them.

In addition to forming a trauma bond with a significant other, you can form a trauma bond with family members, friends, and co-workers. When you are part of a trauma bond, you are continuously drawn to that person, even when they actively cause you pain, because you think that this is what you deserve.

Is Trauma Your Primary Connection to Each Other?

If you are concerned that trauma is the only thing keeping you attached and connected to another person, then you’ll need to recognize the signs:

  • Overlooking red flags in favor of the joy of the “honeymoon” phase
  • Feeling drained constantly
  • Avoiding open communication (maintaining the status quo is more important)
  • Keeping secrets because the other person is controlling (monitoring texts, withholding finances, encouraging isolation, etc.)
  • Defending the abuser’s bad behavior(s)
  • Remaining loyal even in dangerous situations.

The hope that the trauma may turn into something positive, better, or into true love is not viable. A trauma bond cannot turn into a healthy relationship because it relies on a pattern of abuse to exist. Often, the person being abused hopes that they can fix the person/abuser or the relationship, but this is never the case.

Trauma takes a lot of time and patience to recover from. However, moving on is possible. If you are stuck in a trauma bond and feel there is no space for you to breathe, it’s time to consider removing yourself from the situation. This may include putting distance between you and your abuser, even blocking their number. Putting distance in place allows you to focus on what’s most important—you.

Breaking free from a trauma bond may not be easy, but it’s important for your mental and physical wellbeing. A therapist or counselor can give you the tools to recover from your trauma, identify your attachment style, build up your self-confidence, and learn what makes a healthy relationship. Don’t hesitate—reach out for support today. You deserve happiness.

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